Allison Simmons, a former payroll officer at Merbein Mushrooms in Victoria’s north-west, has admitted to seven counts of theft, confessing to embezzling over $1 million from her employer over six years. Beginning in 2013, Simmons initiated unauthorized payments to her personal bank account through the company’s payroll system, amassing $279,496 by 2019. She further conducted 435 transactions, totalling $884,423, to various other bank accounts before rerouting the funds to herself, resulting in a total theft of $1,163,919 by 2019.

Simmons’ fraudulent activities were uncovered when a colleague noticed irregularities in payroll disbursements and reported them. It was revealed that Simmons had manipulated bank account details, directing payments to herself under the guise of legitimate transactions.

The scheme also involved substantial personal expenditures, including $203,000 in cash withdrawals, $181,000 on Facebook games like Candy Crush, $86,000 on retail purchases, and $151,000 disbursed to family members. Despite claiming approval from the company’s director for certain actions, Simmons’ deceitful practices were exposed, prompting legal action.

Both the prosecution and defence acknowledge the severity of Simmons’ actions and agree that she should face imprisonment. However, her defence attorney cites her history of depression as a mitigating factor, arguing that incarceration would exacerbate her mental health condition. The prosecution counters that prison may not significantly worsen her condition and highlights Simmons’ lack of remorse and a previous conviction for similar offences. Judge David Sexton, deeming her lack of remorse “troubling,” has revoked her bail, and Simmons awaits sentencing.

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